Throughout this policy debate, most time is spent discussing discrimination’s affect on those it acts on: gay scouts and adult leaders. Obviously this policy causes us emotional trauma and pain, however we are not the only victim of Scouting’s exclusivity. In fact, one of the largest victims of this gay ban is the Boy Scouts of America themselves. Scouting’s resources and public image have been seriously harmed by their discriminative policy, which detracts from their ability to offer a strong program to their 2.7 million members.
The Boy Scouts of America is only successful due to the great work done by hundreds of thousands of volunteer leaders. These amazing individuals come from all backgrounds, religions and lifestyles to teach leadership and Merit Badge skills. In fact, without such diversity, it would be impossible to find volunteers proficient in the more than 120 Merit Badges offered by the BSA. In the same way, the great diversity in scouts exposes youth to new ways of thinking, and teaches them the importance of diversity and celebrating differences rather than fearing them. By banning gay scouts and leaders, we lose thousands of potential leaders and scouts who have amazing things to share with our organization and its youth.
To highlight this fact, I opened up the BSA’s National Youth Leadership Training Syllabus, which features a training titled “Valuing People.” In this 50 minute presentation, Scouts learn that people differ many different ways, including religion, race, gender, age, physical appearance, etc. The learning goals of the training include:
- Understanding that the Scout Oath, the Venturing Oath, and the Scout Law guide us in valuing other people.
- Recognizing that both the similarities we share with others and our differences can help groups be stronger.
- Seeing that we have a responsibility to act in an ethical manner in our dealings with people whose core values differ from our own.
However, for some reason, none of the above applies to homosexuals, who are never mentioned in the presentation. The BSA acknowledges that diversity is good for group development, yet at the same time teaches Scouts not to associate with gays. It weakens their message and brands them as hypocrites. I have been present at this presentation many times while staffing NYLT, and every time I have been asked about gays. In fact, until recently, the BSA included a disclaimer at the end of the presentation that says if scouts ask about the ban on gays, an adult should take over and explain that none of the above applies because the gay lifestyle is self destructive. Under that logic, we should ban scouts and leaders that smoke as well. After all, scientific evidences can actually prove how harmful that is. They fail to explain how, or why they endorse conservative religious dogma on this issue (in clear violation of their own Statement of Religious Principle that claims the BSA is nonsectarian).
Besides the loss in diversity, the BSA’s ban on gays have turned away thousands of potential families from the Scouting program, who refuse to put their children in a program that says it is okay to discriminate. While I admit that accepting gays could lead to a short term loss of more conservative members, the long term data is clear: America is becoming more and more gay friendly, and if the BSA does not change their stance soon the American public will pass them by, and leave them behind in the pages of history.
Lastly, discrimination has greatly affected the public face of the BSA, harming their fundraising efforts, and therefore their ability to provide a strong program for their scouts. It’s no accident the BSA stopped hosting their National Jamboree at the US Military base Fort A.P Hill. They are being kicked out of schools and over government buildings for years, costing them thousands, to relocate. In the case of the Jamboree, it meant millions of dollars spent building their own, privately owned camp to continue discriminating in security. They have lost support from United Way branches across the nation, and there is a national movement to end United Way giving nationally, their largest across the board donor. Corporations including UPS, Intel, and Merrick have stopped their corporate donations, and Churches including the United Church of Christ have called for a change in the policy. This financial strain hurts Scouting deeply, increases costs on Scouts to attend camp, go on adventure trips, and learn the skills that makes Scouting so great.
The facts are just that, facts: Discrimination in Scouting hurts not only those forced from the group, but the BSA itself. We cannot provide the best Scouting program possible without ensuring the BSA is inclusive.